Tyendinaga will receive a national spotlight next Tuesday when CBC broadcasts an episode of the hit show Still Standing that was shot on the Mohawk territory.
Now in its fourth season, the show aims to take a hilarious and heartwarming look at small communities across Canada that are persevering through tough times.
Filmed around this time last year, the episode features host Jonny Harris meeting with first-language Mohawk speakers, taking a spin in an airplane at the First Nations Technical Institute (FNTI) and receiving floorball goaltending lessons with Team Canada’s Madi Brinklow. Sprinkled throughout the episode is clips of Harris performing a standup routine to members of the community, telling stories about the people he met on the territory.
“We’re always looking for a community that is on the ropes,” explains Still Standing executive producer Anne Francis. “Obviously Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory has had its struggles. In that particular show we saw a cultural story where the cultural revitalization began about 40 years ago on the territory. Younger and older people are trying to bring back the tradition that the Mohawk people fought for.”
Francis says the show’s researchers were drawn to the territory’s history of serving as the peacekeeper between the Six Nations, a tradition they see is carried on through the FNTI flight school.
“With the flight school, they’re bringing Indigenous people and Inuit people from all over Canada to Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory,” said Francis. “We loved that idea of bringing people together and the challenge this community has with keeping one foot in the past while looking towards a prosperous future.”
In the episode Harris is handed the controls of a small plane and gets a bird’s eye view of the territory.
Among the people Harris meets with is Randy Brant, owner of Randy’s Leather Hats for Hide Depot, who has since passed away. Along with a segment included in the episode, a special extended cut will be released on the Still Standing Facebook page to go along with the episode.
Prior to filming, the show’s crew met with members of the band council to go over their intentions and get their blessing.
“I think people get concerned when we’re coming to their community, a comedy show is coming, are they going to rub salt in the wound?,” said Francis. “We always tell people in the community it’s a toast, not a roast, we’re celebrating the community and its resiliency and the good news that’s coming out of the community.”
Any skepticism about their production is quickly erased once they meet the host, said Francis.
“Jonny is such a great guy that everyone just warms up to him,” said Francis. “He’s also not afraid to tell culturally sensitive stories. He doesn’t try to sugar coat things. He’s honest. He’s not trying to tell people’s stories for them on stage. It’s people telling their story.”
One of the stories featured in the episode include Brant’s harrowing tale of being shot at while spearfishing as others attempted to suppress his Native rights.
Previous communities featured on the show have reported not only an increase in tourism, but also in people looking to move to their town.
“People have done things like started cross Canada tours based on Still Standing towns and knocking them off their list as they go, it’s amazing,” said Francis. “Last year we reached out to a bunch of the towns just to get an idea and we’ve got a lot of emails about how more people have moved there and there’s been more visitors. The show has picked up a lot of traction with viewers over the years and there’s a lot more of that happening.”
The episode airs Nov. 6 at 8 p.m. on CBC, the CBC TV streaming app and online at www.CBC.ca/watch.